A few days ago, the Arctic Century Expedition started in Murmansk on August 5. On board the Russian research icebreaker Akademik Tryoshnikov, 59 scientists from 17 nations, including 30 early career scientists, are heading northeast through the Barents Sea to the archipelagos of Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya, and Severnaya Zemlya in the Russian Arctic. The aim of the expedition is to investigate the effects of climate change on the sensitive ecosystems of the Arctic. The Swiss Polar Institute (SPI), GEOMAR in Kiel and the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) jointly organized and prepared the expedition.
The region around these three archipelagos is one of the most affected by climate change in the world. However, there is a lack of data from these regions that can be used to quantify the impact on vulnerable Arctic systems. SPI told us that the Arctic Century Expedition’s comprehensive multidisciplinary research program, combining terrestrial, marine, glaciological and meteorological studies for the first time, will contribute to our understanding of environmental changes in the Russian Arctic. During four weeks, the scientists will thus not only collect data on the high seas, but also on the barely explored islands. Unlike the MOSAiC expedition, however, the researchers will operate without setting up camps, even on the islands, and will only leave the Akademik Tryoshnikov for their work during the day. Because the expedition is kept relatively short, lasting four weeks, there will be no need for resupply from outside, as was the case with MOSAiC.
In addition to the three aforementioned institutes, other partners from eight different countries are involved in the expedition. From Switzerland, scientists from the École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the Université de Lausanne (UNIL), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich), the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and the University of Zurich, (UZH) are participating. Scientists from the German Alfred Wegener Institute are also on board.
Funding for the Arctic Century Expedition is secured by the Swiss Polar Foundation, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the academic partner institutions. Russia, in addition to AARI’s participation, is responsible for issuing the necessary permits and assisting in obtaining visas.
As with all other expeditions, the preparations for the Arctic Century Expedition are no longer “only” limited to the scientific, technical and logistical levels, but nowadays also require extensive COVID protection measures. The SPI told us that full vaccination of all expedition participants (scientists and crew) was mandatory and in case there is a positive case on board during routine tests, further measures will be implemented. In addition, of course, all participants must adhere to the applicable COVID protective measures as well as Russian entry rules during their arrival.
Over the next four weeks, in collaboration with the Swiss Polar Institute, we will keep you up to date with information about the expedition and also publish the scientists’ blog posts on PolarJournal in German. The first findings from the expedition can be expected in the fall. However, the detailed analyses of the samples, the results of which will allow more complex conclusions, will take several months or even years.
Julia Hager, PolarJournal
Link to the Swiss Polar Institute: https://swisspolar.ch
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